Question:How can we inject fun and cultivate interest for Mandarin learning and speaking in young children? My 3 year old insists on replying me in English even when I speak to her in Mandarin.
Asked By : Jleong
Words from the Expert:
Use it in play and other daily activities
Children are born linguistic geniuses and are naturally curious. This perfect combination means that the best way is to expose them constantly to Mandarin usage. Talk to them regularly in a combination of baby talk and adult language throughout the day. You will find there are numerous such opportunities, for example, when playing with them, at the dining table, or while bathing. Pay attention to what they are focusing on and describe to them their interests in Mandarin. Do not be eager to correct their mistakes when they try to echo or mimic you, as with practice and constant exposure, most mistakes will be corrected eventually. Instead, encourage your kid to converse with you in Mandarin and remember to praise them for their efforts!
Create a natural environment
When speaking to your friends and other family members, use Mandarin as often as you can. Seek their help too to also speak to your child in Mandarin. This will help your child become familiar with the language and recognise the usefulness of the language in expressing their needs and communicating with others. Better still, why not consider a predominantly mandarin-speaking country like China or Taiwan for your next vacation?
Music and Dance
There is a reason why the Australian children musical group Hi-5 is so successful – children adore music and dance! Music and dance stimulate your child on a visual, audio and kinaesthetic level and their brain are basically on a “high”. At Youle Mandarin, we make it a point to play numerous mandarin songs over the course of one lesson, both to reinforce what has been taught and just simply to let the kids enjoy and groove to the music.
There are also many online resources for children music in Mandarin, as well as nursery rhymes. Learn the lyrics with your kids and sing and dance with them, at home and when you are out, and its great way for family bonding as well!
Children love to tell stories and be told stories. Besides developing language skills in the process, they are also developing important social traits such as creativity, empathy and humor. Reading Mandarin books with your child provide them with a rich literary environment in which they will not only learn the language but grow to love the language!
Make reading a part of your daily routine. Many parents use reading time as part of their child’s bedtime routine, which is a good way of winding down at the end of the day and a precious time for parent-child bonding.
As a chinese saying goes, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”. Nurturing a love and proficiency for Mandarin in your child cannot be achieved overnight, as the little ones needs to build enough vocabulary before they become natural speakers. Hence, the later one starts, the harder it will be for your child to learn the language. The preschool years are thus the best time to expose your child to Mandarin, so let’s start now!